Dogel was worried. But if you didn’t know him, you wouldn’t know he was worried. He had the face of an old, weathered statue. The giant bushy brow was permanently fixed, the scowl glued on. He might be experiencing overwhelming joy and you’d never know it. What he called his “professional attire.”
But Andriel knew him, and she knew he was worried. She was worried too.
This king was dead and all the royal families were in an uproar over who would take the throne. Something about the heir possibly being a bastard. They’d been civil about it so far, having heated arguments under the guise of “discussions”. But everyone knew it was just a matter of time before someone said something that lead the “discussion” outside of the castle and onto the battlefield. Troops were secretly gathering and there’d been an increase in soldiers at the brothel.
In this way, political unrest wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It brought in new business, and warriors and mercenaries usually had simple appetites. But political unrest also brought in those who fed off such environments. Those who specialized in underhanded tasks and thrived in chaos. Those who knew when the powers that be were too preoccupied to worry about what was happening in the city and therefore would not be handing out consequences for breaking the laws of the land. Those whose appetites were not easily satisfied.
It was those that Dogel was worried about. Those that he’d been keeping an eye out for with such vigilance that his left eye had developed an involuntary twitch every time the door opened. Those that he feared whenever a new stranger walked in.
He wasn’t concerned for the safety for his whores because of the overwhelming fondness he had for them, at least not that he would admit to. No, it was a practical concern- a dead whore meant less customers, more work for the remaining girls. He couldn’t run a business when his supplies ran low.
But Andriel knew that it was more than that. She knew he had a soft spot for his girls, regardless of what he said. He’d kept her around long after her expiration date- she wasn’t getting the business she used to. Her breasts were too saggy, her ass had lost its tightness. She was good at her trade and therefore still had some loyal customers. But she couldn’t attract new business anymore, not when everything was based on appearance. Dogel could have gotten rid of her long ago, shut her out on the street, left her to fend for herself. But he hadn’t. And that wasn’t terribly practical.
“What’s on your mind, old man?” she asked, sidling up to the bar in that way she’d perfected after so many years of practice.
“Huh?” he said without looking at her.
“You want to take a look at this rash for me? It really itches,” she said, making to hike up her skirt.
“What rash?” he jumped, nearly dropping the glass he’d been drying.
“Just making sure you were listening to me,” she grinned at him.
“Not funny” he growled and went back to his glasses.
“You know it’ll be ok- someone will kill someone else and we’ll have a new, fat king drinking himself silly by the end of the year.”
“Yeah, and a new head of the royal guard and he’ll probably want more bribes than the last idiot and we’ll have to move to the back alleys again,” he grumbled.
“Ah, is that what you’re worried about? The rent?”
“I don’t worry, I plan.”
“Well, is that what you’re planning about, then?”
He glared at her and she just grinned back with a blank look. “Shouldn’t you be washing up? They’ll start shuffling in for supper and a throw soon.”
“I’ve already prepared, thank you very much.”
The door creaked open and Dogel’s eye shot to stare down the man coming in. He looked him up and down like a mule that you didn’t trust not to kick you if you walked near it. The man took a glance around and wandered back to the edge of the bar. Dogel waited for him to speak, or make eye contact, his distrust growing with each second the man delayed in this.
“Ale,” the man growled without looking up.
Dogel poured him the drink without taking his eyes off him, the scowl on his brow growing the tiniest bit deeper. Andriel went to take the mug from him to deliver it the potential customer and Dogel grabbed her hand, giving a single firm glance warning her not to. She let go and let him take the mug over to the opposite end of the bar.
She watched as Dogel slammed the mug down in front of the man and saw the man jump. A muted conversation followed and Andriel strained to listen but couldn’t make out any distinct sound which might lead her to detect the topic of discussion. She made a small ‘humph’ to herself and sat back on the stool folding her arms under her chest in the way that had come from years of work.
Dogel walked back to her in a decidedly less rushed manner and calmly picked up the glass he’d been drying.
“SO?” she asked impatiently.
“So, what?” Dogel replied, again not bothering to look up at her.
She sighed at him, knowing he wouldn’t tell her and hating him for it. "You are such a goat!” she chided.
“Ba-aa-a-a!” he grinned at her.